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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
UN warns of hunger in Somalia
Dry catchment area in Somalia (WFP photo)
Somalis face more misery in the coming months
Half a million people in southern Somalia face a serious shortage of food as a result of insufficient rains, say the UN's food agency, the World Food Programme.

A statement released by the WFP said this year's harvest of the staple food sorghum will fall below 10% of the expected average.

I have seen for myself that many of the underground food stores are now empty

Kevin Farrell, WFP
Mr Kevin Farrell, country director for Somalia said in the statement:: "I have seen for myself that many of the underground food stores, which should be full by now are empty."

The dry weather in March and April have forced some families to begin early migration in search of food and grazing land for their cattle.

Food appeal

At feeding centres an unusually high number of women are now turning up for assistance. In some villages men have left their families behind and headed for the city seeking food. Milk, an essential part of the Somali diet, is also drying up.

Women at a feeding centre in Somalia (WFP photo)
Women have been making their way to feeding centres
The regions worst affected by the drought conditions, the WFP said, are those bordering north eastern Kenya and south eastern Ethiopia.

They include Gedo, Bay and Bakol.

The organisation is appealing for donors to provide at least 40,000 metric tonnes of food in order to halt a "humanitarian tragedy and stop more people from leaving their homes".

It said the remaining 20,000 would come from other aid agencies.

Animals dying

The UN food agency said there has not been any deaths from starvation in the country as a result of the current drought but fear that if donors do not urgently respond to their appeal, the situation might change in the coming months.

An underground food store in Somalia (WFP photo)
Underground food stores are empty

A correspondent for the BBC in Somalia says the food situation in the central region is also causing concern.

He says in Galgudud the water wells have dried up and that their are reports of animals dying.

Our correspondent also points out that insecurity in the south and central regions of the country have also accounted for the shortage of food.

See also:

29 Aug 00 | Africa
Somalia's new civilian leader
31 Jul 01 | Africa
Khat shortage hits Somalia
30 Jul 01 | Africa
Kenya bans trading with Somalia
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